Arizona Legislature Sparks Equal Rights Conversation

4 years 8 months 2 weeks ago Tuesday, February 25 2014 Feb 25, 2014 Tuesday, February 25, 2014 5:25:00 AM CST February 25, 2014 in News
By: Rebecca Neth and Tori Chamberlain, KOMU 8 Digital Producers

PHOENIX - Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has only five days under law to decide whether to veto legislation allowing businesses to deny service to gay customers. The bill cleared the Arizona legislature last week. Brewer received the bill Monday -- leaving her four days to veto it, or it becomes law.

Three state senators who voted for the legislation now say they oppose the bill. Opponents of the bill say it's a license to discriminate, while some Republicans say the bill is about protecting religious freedom. Republicans cite the case of a New Mexico photographer who was sued after refusing to take wedding pictures of a gay couple. However, unlike New Mexico, Arizona has no such laws protecting people based on sexual orientation.

Republicans in ten states have introduced various forms of the "Christian Shield" law, which protects religious business owners from legal backlash if they turn away a homosexual customer.

Doctors in the U.S. can refuse the right to perform abortions on religious grounds, but that hasn't eased the heat on this bill that is trying to "protect people's religious liberties". A conservative group that helped write the law says Arizona laws need to be broadened to allow people to work according to their beliefs. One pizzeria in Arizona had a message for the politicians who supported the bill: posting signs that said, "We deserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reminded State Attorney Generals they're not required to defend a state ban on same-sex marriage. Holder refused to legally defend the Defense of Marriage Act, an act that banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages approved by states. That part of the law was deemed unconstitutional last summer.

Equality issues are also making news in Oklahoma City as lawyers appealed a judge's ruling that overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Lawyers argued that legalizing gay marriage would harm children and make traditional marriage unstable. The case started when U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled against a county court clerk whose office refused to give a marriage license to two women.

Marriage equality challenges seem to be appearing around the nation. A two-week trial to overturn Michigan's ban on gay marriage starts Tuesday. The case began in 2012 when two Detroit nurses wanted to adopt each other's children, but a judge invited them to add the same-sex marriage ban to their lawsuit. The women argue the ban on gay marriage violates the equal protection clause. The case will have a full trial with testimony from experts.

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